Chaz Bear (fka Bundick) has never been one to create the same type of album twice. He’s always been able to shift sounds with relative ease. One thing that has always been an asset in the Toro y Moi toolset is the production. Chaz has been growing increasingly more competent as a producer, almost to the detriment of his songwriting. On his latest album, Outer Peace, there is a synergy of great instrumentation and lyrical content that has been missing since 2011’s, masterful Underneath the Pine. The end result is a record is not only refreshing, but a statement towards Toro y Moi’s resurgence as one of music’s most interesting acts.
Outer Peace proves to be the most accessible Toro y Moi album to date. A clear parallel can be made between this and his work under Les Sins. This sees Chaz playing to his strengths, those being fusing different genres and blending them seamlessly together. For this, he uses elements of house, disco, and future-funk. In many ways, this is one of the most rewarding releases that Toro y Moi has put out—however, it’s also one of the most inconsistent.
Bolstered a set of excellent singles, the first half of Outer Peace is endlessly replayable. Tracks like “Freelance”, “Ordinary Pleasure” and “Laws of the Universe” are just overflowing with high-gloss funk alongside a sense of digital age euphoria. The former track starts off at a brisk pace and never lets up. The way that the track incorporates the chopped vocal loop is truly amazing as well. Lyrically, Chaz goes after society’s over-reliance on technology and how it can leave a person jaded. By going “freelance, he is referring to the idea of working for yourself and no one else—not for social media or anything. He’s off the grid, as he refers to his “whereabouts unknown” and how “Cazadero” has him decked out in all camo.
Cloud hidden and my whereabouts unknown
Cazadero got me wearing all camo
Decked in Patagonia, head to toe
Down for whatever, I think I let go
No more shoes and socks, I only rock sandals
I can’t tell if I’m hip or getting old
The outwardly straightforward approach that Chaz uses for these songs benefits the listening experience ten-fold. Whereas 2017’s Boo Boo would often have long instrumental breaks in between certain songs, Outer Peace doesn’t mess around. This largely helps with the overall pacing of the record, as with the fat being cut, the album flows far more smoothly.
Where Outer Peace falters, however, is when it deviates from this disco sound. Sonically, “New House” and “Baby Drive It Down” are reminiscent of Chaz’s last album Boo Boo, where the tone was more downtrodden and introspective. “Miss Me”, while having a stellar feature from rising R&B star ABRA, the backing instrumental lacks any semblance of the lush groove-oriented songs that preceded it. The shift from uptempo disco to alternative R&B is honestly jarring. It would be as if someone changed the playlist in the middle of the party. As a result, the middle section of the record is essentially on an island by itself.
Thankfully, the latter half is just as strong as the first and wraps up on a high note. The track “Who I Am” is a legitimate future-funk track that brings the glossy production to a fever pitch. The admittedly silly vocal delivery from Chaz on this song makes it an honestly fun listen. “Monte Carlo”, while being another attempt at alternative R&B, fares far better than the ones in the middle section. Chaz and WET have excellent chemistry together and the two trade lyrical duties to a great effect.
Outer Peace is another successful pivot for Toro y Moi. Despite the lackluster second half, the album contains some of the best songs in their entire discography. In a sense, this is the natural progression that one would expect the band to take after Boo Boo. These tracks take the claustrophobic bedroom-pop aesthetic and shove it onto the dancefloor. This is the direction that, hopefully, Toro y Moi will be sticking to for the foreseeable future. Knowing Chaz though, that’s probably not likely.